We crave unconditional love, but do we love ourselves unconditionally?
Self-neglect seems to be among the few universal trappings of modern-day living. But the foundation of a strong relationship begins with self-love. Self-love means that you acknowledge and accept the importance of your own happiness and well-being. It implies that you are taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being in an unhealthy quest to please others.
It also means you know yourself, and are comfortable with who you are, warts and all. That you are kind to yourself, and forgiving of mistakes. We list some tips on how to love and accept yourself:
1. Connect Rather Than Compare.
Comparing yourself to others — whether it’s a top model or your co-worker — is a dead-end. When you compare yourself, you feel undervalued and less than.
In order to connect with others, it’s imperative that you first know your strengths and positive qualities. Take some time to take a good look at your characteristics and accomplishments and make a list to fully embrace all that you are.
Connecting with others can come from something as simple as a smile. Be kind, without being submissive.
Conversation is the touchstone of connection. You can get to know more about yourself through talking openly with others and sharing and disclosing your innermost thoughts and feelings.
Don’t agree to things just so that you can avoid conflict and be accepted in the relationship. You can agree to disagree. Everyone has a right to their own perspective and opinion.
2. Have a Dialogue with Your Inner Critic.
Your inner critic is made up of the negative self-talk that you heard from childhood and have internalized.
Some common judgments you hear from your inner critic might include:
- “Don’t do that, or people won’t like you and will be upset with you.”
- “You need to work harder.”
- “You’re not smart enough.”
- “You’re not lovable.”
It’s time to have a dialogue with your inner critic and there is no power struggling necessary.
Remember that your inner critic thinks it’s protecting you by keeping you safe and out of trouble and its good intentions have gone awry.
Retrain your inner critic so it shifts into a coach that can challenge you, without putting you down. Remember, if you don’t think you’re enough, you will deprive yourself of opportunities because you don’t think you’re worthy.
When you hear yourself making these negative judgments, catch yourself and change it up to a supportive, positive voice instead.
3. Choose Self-Empowering Language.
When you tell yourself that you “should”, “ought”, or “have to” do, be, or feel something, you are oppressing yourself.
Instead, choose to do what you want to do. It’s much more empowering and you feel the freedom that choice gives you.
4. Break the Habit of Idealising Your Relationships.
If things are going wrong and you feel like a failure, try shifting your perspective to see the whole picture. Get a reality check about what each of your responsibilities is.
Consider how you may have to rewrite the rules so that you can stand up for yourself in your relationship.
5. Stop Over-Identifying with Circumstances.
You are more than your mistakes, your income, and your body type.
For example, if you failed a test, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. If you’re having a hard time finding a job, that doesn’t mean you’re a loser. So don’t let these perceived roadblocks weigh on your feelings of self-worth.
6. Be Authentic.
In his book, How To Raise Your Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden tells us:
The lies most devastating to our self-esteem are not so much the lies we tell as the lies we live. We live a lie when we misrepresent the reality of our experience or the truth of our being.
Branden confronts us, stating that when you choose to be someone you’re not, you’re doing it because you think the real you is unacceptable. He also offers some questions to help you explore the challenges of being authentic and realizing we’re enough.
In one exercise, he recommends writing somewhere between six to 10 endings for each of several statements regarding being open and honest. Here are a few examples:
- “The hard thing about being honest with myself about what I’m feeling is ___________________________.”
- “The hard thing about being honest with others about my feelings is ___________________________.”
- “If I strived to be true and accurate in my communications ___________________________.”
If you want to have an intimate connection with someone, being open and honest about your thoughts and feelings is necessary.
Being yourself allows the other person to know and appreciate who you truly are. If you withhold your feelings, your relationship cannot be close. Your hesitation at opening up creates a wall between you.
Challenge yourself to say, “I really need to talk about something.”
Remember who you are and express it the world.
7. Practice Being Present.
Being in the present and giving your full attention to yourself and the other creates an optimum environment for your relationship to deepen. Be responsive, not reactive. Allow yourself to receive.
A relationship is never all about one person and getting their approval. Let your relationships be about you, too. A close relationship with someone who truly cares about you actually strengthens your healthy sense of self and self-value.
8. Identify Your Wants and Needs.
Needs are usually something that is important to us, whereas wants are preferences and not quite as important as needs.
Conflict arises when two people want different things. If you don’t feel good enough, you may not value yourself enough to see your wants as important. You may be confused and think that one of your needs is just an unimportant want.
Then, you may dismiss your need as not important enough. So you won’t ask for what you need and you will feel threatened to speak up for yourself because you fear the other will leave you.
9. Love and Accept Yourself.
Unconditional love means you love yourself no matter what. It means you have unconditional worth. Love yourself without judgment.
You are enough. You don’t have to be Super Woman and have to prove yourself and earn love from yourself or anyone else. You are not loved for what you do. You are loved for who you are.
Having good personal boundaries is an effective way of loving and taking care of yourself. Stop seeking validation and approval from others. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself.
10. Practice Self-Care.
When you feel good about who you are and you feel worthy, you naturally take better care of yourself and self-nurturing is the biggest part of self-care.
Take a close look at how you’re living. Are you taking time for the things that bring you joy? Are you eating and moving and feeling healthy and energetic? Are you sleeping enough?
If not, it’s time to make some serious life changes.
Finally, repeat the following statement out loud: “I am enough. I have enough. I am worthy.”
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